September 28, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers of ABCMNY,
I received a text message this morning from Rev. LeDayne Polaski, Executive Director of the BPFNA, Bautistas por la Paz* located in Charlotte, NC, asking me if I had time for a call to provide her some pastoral care. I had been tracking the participation of the BPFNA,- Bautistas por la Paz in the demonstrations in Charlotte stimulated by the fatal shooting of Keith LaMont Scott by police officers. As former President of BPFNA and a continuing supporter, I was glad to hear from her.
As you know, the shooting of Keith LaMont Scott is one of a too-long litany of police related shootings of black men in particular across this country. My peace colleague needed to talk to someone who wasn’t directly in the fray and who might have energy to help her spirit. LeDayne reported that she had only been out in the demonstrations since Friday, September 23, but other clergy and lay colleagues had been participating for nearly a week. She herself was feeling bone tired and soul weary, yet co-workers for peace and demonstrators were able to keep tabs with text messages.
She continued by expressing that the young people out there asked the ministers to lead them in prayer. She could tell that many of these young people were church goers because they responded audibly during the prayers. She said everyone during those moments following prayer were peaceful and the peace hung in the air for a few moments. Then, the Charlotte police, armed in riot gear appeared and charged toward them—provoking gasps, fear and anger from those who had gathered. She explained that the demonstrators had not been shouting anti-police rhetoric, but were chanting, “No justice, no peace.”
African Americans there who were grandparents seemed to be experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome. They recounted horror stories from decades past, and expressed their age-long hope that because they had gone through the targeting and violence so many years ago, that their children and grandchildren would not have to experience it themselves. Polaski, a North Carolina native, cited the pathetic apparent reality of North Carolina being 50th among the 50 states in social mobility among African Americans. In other words, if one was born poor and black, one could very likely die poor.
National news networks had reported an absence of clergy at the demonstrations. Polaski describes that this report was simply not true. The clergy were out there and trying to be as visible as possible. The Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice and other clergy persons have been present since the beginning of the demonstrations. Many clergy expressed an appreciation of meeting some minsters for the very first time while on the street. These meetings are one of few positive benefits of being together in this ordeal.
The City of Charlotte is under a state of emergency. The NAACP has issued a series of demands; Rev. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Monday Movement has called for peace, not just calm. The Charlotte police and the National Guard are operating under different orders: local police have provoked; the National Guard has quelled. It has been several days since the Attorney General Loretta Lynch has spoken directly about the situation in Charlotte.
When asked what we might do in response here in NYC area, I noted that so many New Yorkers have direct family ties to North Carolina. She said, “If you are unable to be here in presence please pray for us. Pray for the spiritual strength of the clergy. Pray for the activists who are largely lay people and younger for the wisdom and stamina to stand through this ordeal. Pray for authentic peace not just calm.”
So, at this point we are calling on churches to pray for peace with justice in Charlotte. Pray for those who are demonstrating and the fruitful witness of the church in the midst of the storm. Tweet your prayers so a wider audience knows you support them and/or post them on your social media or webpages. Use the hashtag #pray4charlotte #prayforcharlotte #peaceincharlotte. Pray ‘til prayer is no longer needed.
Also we would call on you to be in touch with the Attorney General Loretta Lynch to use the power of the Department of Justice to intervene: tweet@LorettaLynch.
A message to the Department of Justice may be submitted online.
Alternatively, correspondence to the Department, including the Attorney General, may be sent to:
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
The Department may also be contacted by phone at the following:
- Department Comment Line: 202 353 1555
- Department of Justice Main Switchboard: 202 514 2000
- TTY/ASCII/TDD: 800 877 8339 (or Federal IP Relay Service)
Rev. Polaski and I ended our conversation with prayer.
In the Hope of Christ,
Rev. Cheryl F. Dudley